By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Eyewitness News is celebrating Earth Day with a series of reports this week. There’s new research on air pollution in the Philadelphia region linked to lung cancer and it all depends on where you live.

Air in the Philadelphia region is ranked as the 12th most polluted in the country by the American Lung Association. Toxins in the air, mainly from traffic and industry, are known to cause lung cancer.

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“We developed hazard indices for 421 zip codes,” University of Pennsylvania Dr. Trevor Penning said.

Trevor Penning with the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine traced 70,000 lung cancer cases between 1998 and 2017 to air pollution in certain zip codes in the Philadelphia region. That research was published in February.

“What’s novel about our study is the combination of the satellite imagery for both particulate matter and the satellite imagery for volatile organic compounds,” Penning said.

NASA imagery uses light reflections to measure air toxins, the Penn researchers layered that information over this region to show highly polluted zip codes that also have a larger number of lung cancer patients.

“It’s not surprising perhaps some of the highest polluted areas track with the I-95 Corridor,” Penning said.

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And it’s not just this highway, the research identified other locations with elevated toxic emissions linked to heavy traffic.

“There is a hot spot of air pollution out by Conshohocken which is where we have the interchange between I-76 also the PA Turnpike and the Blue Route,” Penning said.

The research also found hot spots in Logan Township, New Jersey, and Atlantic City the source of pollution wasn’t identified.

Beyond measures to improve the air, how can people protect themselves? Here is one possibility.

“We’re going to see these biosensors really take off,” Penning said. “We use our smartwatches right now for measuring heart rate and our exercise, why can’t we have a biosensor that would measure pollution as well”

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Penning thinks bio-sensor technology will become more reliable in the next couple of years.

Stephanie Stahl